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Idiocracy looks forward instead of back, deep-freezing two average humans (army private Luke Wilson and hooker Maya Rudolph) for 500 years. They awake into a world where natural selection has been swamped by a reproductive tidal wave of mouth-breathers and crotch-grabbers, addicted to ever-more-violent television and “educated” by corporate slogans and mindless consumerism. This is either a Blue State liberal’s nightmare vision of flyover country, or a parody of same. With director/co-writer Mike Judge (Office Space, “Beavis and Butthead,” “King of the Hill,”), you’re never quite sure. (Judge collaborated on the screenplay with Etan Cohen.)
In any case, Wilson and Rudolph, simply smart enough to tie their shoes in 2005, are Wile E. Coyote SUPER GENIUSES in the 26th century. However, like the cartoon predator who was forever falling into canyons and being blown up by the latest Acme gizmo, their comparative smarts are more of a liability than an asset. Intelligence, even average intelligence, is no match for stupidity, especially when it has become so rampant that it’s celebrated rather than shunned. Anyone who talks in actual English sentences, as Wilson and Rudolph do, is automatically assumed to be a pretentious “fag.” The soft bigotry of low expectations indeed! (Idiocracy preceded the English-mangling candidacy of Sarah Palin by three years. Maybe Judge does have a time machine.)
The film is (intentionally) ugly and crude: the most popular TV show on The Violence Channel is called “Ow! My Balls!” and yes, it consists of a guy doing repeated damage to his nuts. Judge is an equal opportunity offender: corporate greed turns out to be behind the crop failures and dust bowls that are ravaging the planet, because farmers are irrigating their crops with a Gatorade-like substance rather than water. Why is the liquid so popular? Its manufacturer had the foresight to buy both the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Communications Commission in the 2300s, and now everyone is convinced that the substance is “what plants crave,” when in actuality it’s killing them, along with all other life on the planet.
In a case of life imitating satire, or satire being unable to keep up with stupidity, Idiocracy was a box-office failure during its brief time in theaters. One reason is that its distributor, Twentieth-Century Fox, gave it almost no marketing support. Either the studio’s suits are emissaries from the idiotic future, or they are smarter than they seem. They may have realized that Idiocracy’s satire is so unrelenting that it may be too much of a good thing: smart people don’t like to be reminded that they live in a world where they’re a shrinking minority, and stupid people are likely to feel insulted. Oh, and Judge predicts that the Fox News Channel is still going strong in 2505, providing the same unbiased reporting and respect for facts that it always has—another nail in the film’s corporate coffin.
Fortunately, Idiocracy is likely to have the same fate as Judge’s 1999 Office Space, a brilliant satire of corporate life that has become a cult classic. All the performers (many of whom were in the earlier film) are pitch-perfect at playing idiots, slobs, droolers, nose-pickers, pumped-up bullies and consumerist drones.
So which is scarier? Pan’s Labyrinth is a creepier film; Idiocracy is a stealth bomb of subversive ideas. Both are likely to give you nightmares.
(This article originally appeared on www.blogcritics.org)